Due to recent positives for such drugs as ephedrine and caffeine, trainers are again reminded to use extreme caution and consult an Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) licensed veterinarian before administering any new or unknown products to horses – such as so-called herbals or natural products.

The Rules of Racing state that any horse with a positive for a Class I, II, III drug, or a substance determined to be non-therapeutic, shall be declared ineligible to race in Ontario for a period of 90 days. As well, under rule changes introduced in January of 2008, a horse with a positive test amounts to an absolute liability offence for the trainer.

ORC Veterinarian Supervisor Dr. Bruce Duncan says horse people need to be aware of all the ingredients being administered to their animals. “As part of a program of good medication control, trainers need to be vigilant and use caution with natural products. Simply checking the label is no guarantee of what is actually inside the product.”

Dr. Duncan pointed out that while natural health products are generally safe and have fewer side effects than traditional medications, they are not risk free. “Depending on the source or the country of origin, there can be manufacturing problems – such as contamination, incorrect dosage or contain ingredients not mentioned in labeling.”

According to Health Canada, Natural Health Products Regulations, which were enacted on January 1, 2004 under the authority of the Food and Drugs Act provide that:  “Natural health products”, often called “complementary” or “alternative” medicines, include:

• vitamins and minerals
• herbal remedies
• homeopathic medicines
• traditional medicines like traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic (East Indian) medicines

Further, these Regulations are comprised of the requirements concerning “manufacture, packaging, labelling, storage, importation, and distribution” of natural health products. For more information, click on the following link to visit the Health Canada web site:  Health Canada information on Herbal and Natural products

The racing community is reminded that a basic aspect of good medication control is ensuring that you only use products that are properly manufactured and clearly labeled, obtained from an authorized distributor, and only administered after consultation with an ORC licensed veterinarian.

By exercising diligence regarding the contents of such products, trainers will be more likely to know if use will lead to a positive test.